8:38 AM CDT, May 14, 2013
The crowd arrived late. The Bulls didn’t arrive at all. Ba-bum-cha!
Each seat in the United Center held a poster proclaiming “Next Man Up.’’ There just weren’t enough men -- or women or children -- to hold them up.
Weren’t enough Bulls to make good on that theme, either. Weren’t enough healthy Bulls. Weren’t enough capable Bulls.
Game 4 was avert-your-eyes ugly and hushed-tones sad. The Bulls died on national television Monday night. The players who combined for the worst shooting percentage in franchise playoff history obviously took the DNR order seriously.
Say this for the Bulls, though: They didn’t come out undisciplined. No stupid moves that passed for physical play. They even showed faint signs of hope with their willingness to hit the offensive boards.
But they had nothing else, and then they didn’t even have that.
The Bulls started 1-for-12 from the floor and missed their first six three-point attempts. They managed zero fast-break points and gave up 20 in the paint in the first half.
In dialing back their propensity for stupid play, the Bulls dialed back almost all of their energy. They certainly dialed back whatever passes for offense. They set franchise playoff records for fewest points in a game and a quarter. They had two more baskets than turnovers.
Nate Robinson missed all 12 of his attempts. All 12. Carlos Boozer made 3 of 14. Jimmy Butler hit 4 of 10. Joakim Noah 1 of 6. Marco Belinelli. Taj Gibson. Richard Hamilton. Mommy, make them stop.
More telling was the Bulls' defense. Or lack of it. The Heat shot better than 50 percent most of the night. Even gimpy Dwyane Wade drove and hit a few shots against the part of the Bulls game that always gave them a chance. It turned so bad that Marquis Teague deflected a pass under his rim that ended up dropping into the basket.
The Bulls weren’t ready to play and they don’t have more than enough to win. No wonder Tom Thibodeau was reduced to talking NBA officiating conspiracy.
The Heat methodically and unemotionally moved out to a big lead. It was stoic and surgical and skilled. The few times the Bulls cut the deficit to single digits, the Heat would make a couple threes, and see ya later.
Now, I understand the Heat are going to make threes -- hey, Norris Cole finally missed one -- but most times those shots were uncontested. The Bulls failed to rotate or lost somebody in the ball movement or just didn’t have the energy to look like they cared.
Is the body the first to go? Or is it the mind? Doesn’t matter. They both went in Game 4 and did not leave a forwarding address.
It’s a shame to see the Bulls wither away like this after the pluck they displayed in the regular season and against Brooklyn. They played with remarkable heart. They were coached exceptionally well. They probably had no right to get this far.
They were never going to beat the Heat, even with Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. They finally lost enough players that they lost their will. They won the opener, then they played stupid, and then they were done, just like that.
It’s the “just like that’’ that seems unfair and surprising when viewed against their indefatigability. Just like that, nothing. The Bulls always have something. Energy. Defense. Will. Something.
But on Monday night, nothing. It all caught up with the decaying Bulls. They looked dead. They are dead. Services are scheduled for Wednesday in Miami.
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